The Edge of the Storm

by Agustín Yáñez

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 515

In this novel of social realist commentary, Agustín Yáñez makes one Mexican village a microcosm of Mexican society in the early 20th century. In the title The Edge of the Storm, the “storm” is the impending Mexican Revolution of 1910, and “edge” refers to both the village’s peripheral location in relation to the capital and to time as the revolution draws near. In offering a diverse array of characters, rather than one central hero, the author highlights different reasons that some upheld the status quo, while others became dissatisfied or disillusioned and left town. Reasons for joining the revolution, he conveys, were not always strong political beliefs. The revolution was a broad social movement, not just an overthrow of the government. While the hypocrisy and corruption made a total change inevitable, the reasons are also found in individual hearts and minds.

The strong presence of the Catholic Church is one condition that both supported social cohesion and generated impulses to escape from it. Even this tiny town has three priests. While Father Dionisio is largely sympathetic and compassionate, his attitudes toward both parishioners and his family are not realistic; he expects a level of virtue and devotion that does not match their circumstances. The two other priests represent the progressive and arch-conservative factions then competing within the Church as much as the nation. Father Islas tries to control the unmarried women by running a society that harshly sanctions even the appearance of impropriety. When he passes away, his replacement by Father Dionisio symbolizes the centrist turn of both church and state and implies the author’s preference for a reformist current.

The story of the Limón father and son encapsulates the idea of the revolution as an escape rather than a cause. Although Damián eventually runs away to join the revolutionaries, his motivations seem less than noble. He has turned against the false promise of capitalism that lured him to the United States, where he encountered discrimination and when he returned to Mexico a failure in others’ eyes. Staking his hopes on inheriting from his father, he instead becomes embroiled in a messy personal situation. Not only does his father die, but Damián kills a woman and must pay for his crime. Significantly, the author makes this a crime against the “weaker sex,” thus portraying Damián with insufficient machismo. Joining the revolution, for him, is a last resort rather than a lofty goal.

The female characters also become involved in rebellion and revolution. The feisty María, under the influence of the sexually rebellious Micaela, longs for the liberties that modernity promises, as she learns from magazines and romance novels. These romantic longings, as well as compassion, lead her to shelter Damián. This behavior leads to censure, however, and she can no longer be sheltered by her guardian, Father Dionisio. She runs off with another woman to join the revolutionaries. Historically, many women did participate as armed guerrilla fighters known as soldaderas. Here again, the author suggests, motivations beyond the strictly political helped bolster the cause of revolution.

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